Lake Tahoe Snow and Ski

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Lake Tahoe Snow and Ski
Lake Tahoe was home to the winter Olympics of 1960, and continues to draw skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, winter stargazers, photographers, and those who enjoy curling up by a fire and watching the snow drift by.
By Vanessa Petersen, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Ben Davidson/Squaw Valley
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    During the winter lace up your skates and practice your spirals at Tahoe’s ice-skating rinks. These outdoor rinks are located in the heart of ski resorts, with easy access to outdoor fire pits and cafés ready to warm up guests with a hot drink or a meal. In South Lake Tahoe, an ice rink is located in the center of Heavenly Village; in North Lake Tahoe, Northstar is built around an ice rink. Squaw Valley has an ice rink both at its High Camp—overlooking the lake from its mountain peak—and at its nearby resort nestled in the mountain valley. Each rink offers skate rentals and welcomes the whole family.
    Photo courtesy of Ben Davidson/Squaw Valley
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    Snow Play and Sledding
    The thrill of sledding down a snowy hill can bring back childhood memories and a sense of joy to even the most cynical of adults, and it's a slam-dunk that the kids will enjoy it. Tahoe offers numerous snow play areas where the whole family can share in the fun of tubing and sledding. In South Lake Tahoe, Adventure Mountain is the best option for a full day in the white stuff. Taylor Creek Sno-Park is a great destination for little ones and those desiring the gentlest of sledding slopes. In North Lake Tahoe, Granlibakken and Soda Springs each have plenty of opportunities for snow fun, with places to warm up and refuel with a cup of hot chocolate and a tasty treat.
    Photo by Vanessa Petersen
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    Spas and Saunas
    Tahoe has plenty of spas and saunas to relieve sore muscles after outdoor adventures—or even as an alternative to those activities. Follow in the footsteps of Mark Twain and several former presidents and take a soak in David Walley’s Resort, with its five natural mineral baths. Stillwater Spa in Incline Village offers a massage using Lake Tahoe’s smooth granite stones, along with a mud detox wrap, and a wild herbal relief wrap to ease altitude adjustment. The Spa at Squaw Creek draws on Native American indigenous plants, Moroccan oils, and Sedona mud to help you rehydrate in the dry mountain air and to soothe your muscles.
    Photo by Vanessa Petersen
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    Winter Warmers
    The traditional cup of hot cocoa has not lost its childhood appeal, and Tahoe has multiple venues to enjoy something warm and sweet. Tahoe House is a local favorite in Tahoe City, baking up European-style pastries to accompany Swiss coffee and hot chocolate. The West Shore Cafe in Homewood offers a selection of rich desserts to go with coffee, and complimentary s’mores during winter happy hours. In South Lake Tahoe, Alpina Coffee Cafe brews Alpen Sierra Coffee, deluxe espresso beverages, and teas from around the world. Zephyr Cove Restaurant serves up lovely lattes, old-fashioned milkshakes, and house-made apple fritters.
    Photo courtesy of Andreas Hub/Visit California
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    Skiing and Snowboarding
    The Sierra Nevada Mountains of Tahoe are home to over a dozen ski resorts. Each has something unique to offer skiers and snowboarders. Northstar, Squaw, and Heavenly are dedicated ski destinations with on-site lodging, shopping, restaurants, and bars. Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood, and Sierra at Tahoe are known for their dynamic terrain. Homewood and Diamond Peak offer lake views and advanced runs, as well as learning spaces for kids with fewer crowds and cheaper fees than other resorts. Mount Rose is worth a visit for its spectacular view alone, and is the only ski resort that surpasses advanced levels and has trails for experts. Sugar Bowl and Boreal, with easy access on Donner Summit, are often the first in the season to get snow.
    Photo courtesy of Hank de Vre/Squaw Valley
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    Cross-Country Skiing
    Glide deeply into a peaceful forest and across snow-covered alpine meadows, each stride another step removed from the crowds. What cross-country (or Nordic) skiing lacks in adrenaline, it makes up for with its intimate relationship to the surroundings and the health benefits of a vigorous full-body yet low-impact workout. In the south, Hope Valley Outdoor Center and Kirkwood offer many kilometers of trails. To the north, try Tahoe Cross-Country, Squaw Creek, and Northstar. The crowning site for cross-country skiing is Royal Gorge; every level of Nordic skier can enjoy its 6,000 acres. Nine warming huts stand ready to welcome skiers on their cross-country trek, and some trails are dog-friendly too. The resort will even make snow if needed.
    Photo by Vanessa Petersen
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    Find a tranquil meadow with an undisturbed blanket of snow; trek trails to lakes and historic sites deep in winter hibernation; follow a guide under the full moon and discover the magic of stargazing. While there are snowshoeing options at all the Nordic skiing locations, there are also endless possibilities for additional dedicated snowshoeing explorations. Tahoe Adventure Company and Northstar both offer stargazing and full-moon snowshoeing tours. If a day of snowshoeing at one of the Nordic ski areas leaves you hungry for more, try some of Tahoe’s lesser-known lakes such as Spooner Lake, Angora Lake, Winnemucca Lake, Echo Lake, and Fallen Leaf Lake. If you can walk or hike it in the summer, you can snowshoe there in the winter.
    Photo by Clay McLachlan/age fotostock
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    Let an experienced musher and their team of dedicated huskies lead you into the snowy wilds of the Sierra Nevada for a unique experience. Most dogsled tours last about an hour, and a sled can normally hold two adults and one or two small children. Sierra Ski Touring Husky Express in Hope Valley will have you in the company of host David Beck, a backcountry-skiing legend: He was the first to cross the Sierra High Route, is an avalanche expert, and has trained avalanche rescue dogs for three decades. Wilderness Adventures Dog Sled Tours, based out of Northstar and Sugar Bowl resorts, and Sierra Adventures, in Reno, are two companies eager to take you on an exciting dogsled adventure.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides
    The tradition of dashing through a winter wonderland on a horse-drawn sleigh lives on in Lake Tahoe. Local family businesses are dedicated to sharing the beauty of the snowy Sierras with visitors via this enchanting journey through snow-dusted meadows and woods. Borges Sleigh and Carriage Rides takes groups of friends and families through the snow to hear stories and songs, or on a sunset dinner ride to a local restaurant. For a more romantic sleigh ride, Camp Richardson Corral takes couples on a magical outing complete with hot cocoa or apple cider to help keep the spirits bright.
    Photo courtesy of Dwight Borges/Borges Sleigh and Carriage Rides
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    Zip down snowy trails through Sierra forest and up to vistas of Lake Tahoe, following a guide and chasing your friends into the white wilderness. Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours near Northstar is ready to take riders on 100 miles of trails. In the south, Zephyr Cove Resort has 45 miles of terrain groomed for snowmobile riders. North of Truckee, Eagle Ridge Snowmobile Outfitter Wilderness Tours has 650 miles of possible adventures, with 200 miles of groomed trails. All snowmobile companies will teach guests how to operate snowmobiles safely, and a guide will stay with and lead each group. It is best to call and make reservations beforehand, and allow time for safety discussions and release forms before the adventure begins.
    Photo courtesy of Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours